Dell McGee has long been appreciative of Kirby Smart. And McGee’s respect and admiration for Smart was on display as McGee was formally introduced as the head coach at Georgia State.

McGee had spent the previous eight years as Smart’s running backs coach, playing a major role in shaping Georgia as a national championship program.

“Coach Smart really supported my decision,” McGee told reporters at his introductory press conference. “We had deep conversations. It wasn’t necessarily about finances, he was very encouraging and knew that I wanted to be a head coach. He felt like this was a great opportunity for me to seize, and thought this was a really, really good fit.

“He was 100% behind me, and we kind of joked, ‘I know you’re going to be trying to recruit my players because I’m going to bring some in.’”

Running back has been a consistent strength for the Georgia program. In addition to his ability to identify and develop elite running backs, McGee has been one of the top recruiters in the state of Georgia.

The Bulldogs have tabbed Josh Crawford to be McGee’s replacement. Like McGee, Crawford has worked in the state as a high school coach. Crawford comes to Georgia having spent the past season as the wide receivers coach at Georgia Tech. McGee worked at Georgia Southern prior to coming to Georgia before the 2016 season.

Even with McGee now no longer a part of the Georgia program, the mutual respect between McGee and Smart will still exist. Smart was actually on vacation this past week and McGee was in charge of team workouts in Athens while Smart was away.

It speaks to the level of trust Smart had in McGee.

“We’re going to be a great resource to one another,” McGee said. “That friendship and that love I have for him and Mary Beth is more than words can express. They have meant a lot to my career, my family and I’m very appreciative of the time I spent with Coach Smart building that program to where it is today. I wouldn’t be here today before you without working with Coach Smart.”

While McGee brought plenty of positive attributes to the Georgia program, he also picked up more than a few things from Smart.

McGee looks forward to incorporating those same values into the Georgia State program.

“You create value in your team with competition, and we’re going to recruit players that want to compete and like things hard,” McGee said. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be tough, but life is tough. Everything we’re going to do on and off the football field, in the classroom, it’s things that are going to prepare these young men for the next 40-50 years of their life. So just the details and his passion. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, I know it doesn’t look like it, but I’m a very good adjuster.”

McGee takes over a Georgia State program that went 7-6 last season. The head coaching job came open when Shawn Elliott abruptly resigned to become the tight ends coach at South Carolina.

McGee knows he’ll have to hit the ground running, as the Panthers had already started spring practice when Elliott stepped away.

But McGee steadfastly believes Smart prepared him for this job. And is eager to be another strong branch of the Smart coaching tree.

“I’m very appreciative of the time I spent with Coach Smart building that program to where it is today,” McGee said. “I wouldn’t be here today before you without working with Coach Smart.”

Dell McGee to be new head coach at Georgia State